Too much email? Let your bot answer

What will it be like when you have your own bot and it is as good or better than you at many daily tasks?

The answer may come sooner than you think. Google’s new Pathway Languages ​​model, which is yet to be publicly tested, is the latest advance in artificial intelligence. The technical explanation is that neural networks have been scaled to 540 billion parameters for “breakthrough performance”. The practical effect is that AI is now better at engaging in natural conversations, explaining novel jokes, and writing code.

I assume that most written communication will eventually be done by bots. I could train my bot by having it read all my past emails and other writings. Finally, my bot answered most of my emails directly, although it was able to hold back a few to ask me if they deserved a personal reply.

That sounds convenient, and in many ways it will be. I will have more time to walk and read books. But think through the broader balance. When more emails are read by bots, more emails are written by bots. Of course that’s already the case, but in this new world, emails created by bots will be at least as good as human emails and at least as good at getting through whatever filters I’ve put in place to save my time and protect attention.

A kind of arms race will follow. Overall, I expect the number of high-quality messages and emails to increase. Woe to those who don’t have a very good filter bot.

Imagine yourself negotiating or discussing terms in such a world. I may get a suggestion from your bot. Is this a real, legally binding offer? Or is it just a trick to trick me into revealing information about my negotiation strategy? In some cases, bots can smoothly handle these issues and present a final solution to both sides. In other cases, negotiators may insist on meeting in person, both to know they are getting “the real deal” and to limit the potential for back-and-forth. For some real-world interactions, online written communication will no longer be good enough.

For example, consider the college admissions essay. Nowadays it is important. But if the bots get good at writing, applicants may have to show up for an in-person interview instead. Then countermeasures could be developed. Maybe there aren’t enough admissions officers to have all these conversations. So why not let the applicants spend two days together, record all the procedures and let the bots give reviews? You could even measure who told the most original jokes.

In this new world, the ability to write will count for much less and personal charisma for much more. This is not necessarily a positive development. Writing will be more difficult to use as a measure of broader ability or intelligence.

If you are single, bots can change your use of dating services. It seems tiresome having to swipe left or right all the time — and besides, do you really trust your own judgement? You could instead let your bot choose for you. If you tell him you’re interested in a potential mate, he might even send you photos of what your kids might look like.

However, as with email, there are some potential complications. The good news is that your bot can quickly sort through the entire pool of available candidates. Maybe your soulmate was at swipe 3,472 – and maybe now, thanks to your bot, you’ll find that person instead of giving up. The bad news is that the best dates and marriage candidates could be pulled from the eligible pool. The dating market’s liquidity could dry up for less desirable candidates. Tinder hides the reality that a candidate might only be a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, but your bot isn’t.

Artificial intelligence brings great benefits to a variety of tasks, e.g. B. detecting payment fraud, improving medical diagnosis and sending rockets into space. The potential problems arise when AI systems interact directly with human attention – and the corresponding activity requires a lot of matching and filtering. In these cases, the AI ​​advances can overwhelm our human abilities to participate in the process. And there may not be an end phase, at least not in the near future, when we can fully rely on AI.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about this column, you must depend on me for answers. But maybe not for much longer.

Related at Bloomberg Opinion:

• The high ideals of the Google AI Unit are shrouded in secrecy: Parmy Olson

• Confronting the potential of AI to create new chemical weapons: Lisa Jarvis

• Go ahead: Ignore this email: Stephen L. Carter

This column does not necessarily represent the opinion of the editors or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Tyler Cowen is a columnist for the Bloomberg Opinion. He is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and writes for the blog Marginal Revolution. His books include Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero.

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